SPRINGFIELD – The Oregon School Boards Association held a staff training session for Springfield district board members and staff discussing how to best improve the equity challenges students and families face in the district.

The meeting was led by Vincent Adams, OSBA board development specialist, who encouraged board members and staff to share their experiences with racism and discuss how to improve policies around equity in Springfield schools.

Adams said the students are struggling with social emotional learning, and the board needs to work intentionally toward the best way to make students feel comfortable. 

Part of this process involves hearing directly from students and families, “hearing the hard stories,” and addressing their challenges.

“We need to hear from the people who are affected by this work,” Adams said.

One way to practice equitability is making sure all students have a safe space to speak up without judgement, such as a virtual or in-person equity club.

Board member Emilio Hernandez said he is affected by racism every day. He is “still not totally accepted” despite having a higher-education degree, unless he is wearing a suit, he said.

He said students are going to be put in discouraging circumstances, and it is the staff’s responsibility to support students by telling them: “Don’t put up with it.”

“Education isn’t a guarantee to change your life, unless you have a support base built up around yourself and you have people that believe in you,” he said. 

It is not likely every student beginning their education with online learning has an equal starting point, board member Zachary Bessett said. 

Chief Operating Officer Brett Yancey agreed that many students are struggling at home without a caring adult.

Springfield superintendent Todd Hamilton said equity means beginning conversations with a willingness to learn more about the other person and eliminate the historical predictability many students have faced over the years.

The board agreed to continue with its discussion on equity and to check on the effect of the new “All Students Belong” policy regarding anti-hate symbols and bias incidents while making other changes.

The next Springfield Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Feb. 8 at 7 p.m.